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The Federal Trade Commission announced today that the agency returned approximately $12.7 million to consumers this week from a settlement with Andris Pukke and his companies, AmeriDebt, Inc. and DebtWorks, Inc. This consumer redress concludes the largest credit counseling/debt management deception case brought by the FTC. In addition, more than $7 million will be returned to consumers as a result of class-action settlements with the defendants and related credit counseling agencies.

Using the defendants’ records, about 287,000 AmeriDebt consumers have been mailed redress checks. The FTC and individual consumers alleged that AmeriDebt, DebtWorks, and related credit counseling agencies engaged in deceptive practices in promoting and offering credit counseling and debt management plans (DMPs).

Consumers who qualified for redress, a total of about 460,000 consumers, obtained a DMP from one of 11 credit counseling agencies serviced by DebtWorks between January 31, 1998 and October 7, 2004. The agencies were AmeriDebt, Inc., Debticated Consumer Counseling, Inc., A Better Way Credit Counseling, Inc., Credicure, Inc., Mason Credit Counseling, Inc., Nexum Credit Counseling, Inc., Neway, Inc., The Credit Network, Inc., Visual Credit Counseling, Inc., Preactive, Inc., and Debtscape, Inc.

Since May 2006, a court-appointed receiver has been working diligently to identify all possible assets that can be liquidated for consumers’ benefit. The receiver obtained a contempt order against Pukke in March 2007 on the grounds that he had been hiding assets from the receiver. The receiver has been locating and liquidating a wide range of complex assets, including overseas property and property held by family and friends of Pukke.

AmeriDebt consumers with questions should call the redress administrator at 888-309-3816. Consumers who obtained a DMP from another agency in the list above should call 888-385-3082.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC's Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

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